High-Precision Air Bearing CNC Lathe And Grinder

You know you’re in for a treat when you are told that a lathe which can reach a resolution of one micrometer (1×10−6, a millionth of a meter, or 0.00004″ for people who love zeros) is ‘not hard to build’.  This is one of the opening statements in this video by [Dan Gelbart], as he walks the viewer through the details of a custom CNC lathe which he built. (Video embedded below.)

As it’s a combined CNC lathe and grinder, it uses custom software he had developed specifically for the machine. Much of the high precision of the machine is courtesy of air bearings. All but two of the air bearings were made by [Dan], with the two surplus air bearings he used coming from machines used in the semiconductor industry.

The bed of the machine is formed out of off-the-shelf reference granite, to which the other parts are epoxied, providing a stable base with well-defined dimensions. Though perhaps a few light years beyond most DIY lathe efforts, [Dan]’s videos nevertheless provide a treasure trove of tips and information for lathe builders and users alike. Certainly worth a look.

Thanks [Drew] for the tip in the comments.
Continue reading “High-Precision Air Bearing CNC Lathe And Grinder”

Scratch Building A Lathe From Pieces Of Granite

As hackers, we’re well accustomed to working with what we have on hand. That’s the name of the game, really. A large majority of the projects that have graced these pages are the direct result of trying to coerce a piece of hardware or software into doing something it was never designed to do, for better or for worse.

But even still, attempting to build a functional lathe using scrap pieces from granite countertops is a new one for us. [Nonsense Creativity] has spent the last several months working on this build, and as of his latest video, it’s finally getting to the point at which the casual observer might recognise where he’s going with it.

We won’t even hazard a guess as to the suitability of thick pieces of granite for building tools, but we’re willing to bet that it will be plenty heavy enough. Then again, his choice of building material might not be completely without precedent. After all, we once saw a lathe built out of concrete.

Building a lathe out of what you’ve got laying around the shop is of course something of a tradition at this point., but if you’re not quite up to the challenge of cutting your own metal (or granite, as the case may be), [Quinn Dunki] has put together a lathe buying guide that you may find useful.

Continue reading “Scratch Building A Lathe From Pieces Of Granite”

Solenoid Engine Adds Three “Pistons”

The earliest piston engines typically had only one cylinder, and at best, produced horsepower measured in single digits. But once you have a working engine, it’s a relatively short step to adding cylinders and increasing the power output. [Emiel] made a similar upgrade to one of his engines recently, upgrading it from one cylinder to four. But this isn’t an internal combustion engine, it gets its power from electric solenoids.

We featured his single-cylinder build about a month ago, and since then he’s been busy with this impressive upgrade. The new engine features four cylinders arranged in a V4 pattern. Of course, this greatly increases the mechanical complexity. To start, he had to machine a crankshaft to connect all four “pistons” to a shared output shaft. He also had to build a set of cams in order to time the firing of the cylinders properly, so they don’t work against one another.

The build is just as polished and impressive as the last, which is saying a lot. [Emiel] has a quality machine shop and built the entire motor from scratch, including winding the solenoids, machining the connecting rods and shafts, and building a very picturesque wooden base for the entire contraption to sit on. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Continue reading “Solenoid Engine Adds Three “Pistons””

Making A Bronze Cannon From Scratch

Casting metal at home is somewhat tricky, but there’s no denying the results can be quite rewarding. [FarmCraft101] put his incredible craftsmanship on display, and learned a few new things in the process, by scratch building a scale replica bronze cannon and carriage.

Starting with a sufficient quantity of scrap metal, he first produced bronze ingots. Getting the actual casting right took multiples attempts. First tried a lost foam cast, which failed miserably, but provided a sample metal which was put through tensile strength testing. The second attempt was done using a wood barrel form and a split mold, and was cast horizontally which resulted in shrinkage on top of the barrel. The third attempt, arranged vertically, almost resulted in a high risk game of “the floor is lava”, with molten bronze pouring out across his garage floor after the mold split open during casting.

Attempt number four was finally successful, again using a vertical mold but with more sturdy clamping. This roughcast barrel was then drilled out and finished to a beautiful mirror with the help of a lathe and a lot of elbow grease. He then turned his attention to the carriage, which itself is a real beauty featuring custom wagon wheels with a charred wood finish and linseed oil coating.

You can check out the build video after the break, but we’ll warn you now, [FarmCraft101] never actually fires this gorgeous creation. If you’d like to try your hand at DIY cannoneering and have a 3D printer, you might want to give lost PLA casting a try, or go into mass production with some DIY silicone molds.

Continue reading “Making A Bronze Cannon From Scratch”

A Double-Hybrid Mini-Lathe, From Scratch

It’s a treadle lathe! No, it’s a power lathe! It’s a wood lathe! No, it’s a metal lathe! Actually, [Uri Tuchman]’s homebrew lathe is all of the above, and it looks pretty snazzy too.

To say that [Uri]’s creations are quirky is a bit of an understatement – birds, crustaceans, hands, and feet all appear repeatedly as motifs in his work – but there’s no overstating his commitment to craftsmanship. [Uri] turns wood and metal into wonderful tools, nonsense machines, and finely detailed instruments, like this exquisitely engraved astrolabe we featured a while back.

[Uri] mostly works with hand tools, supplemented by an old Singer treadle-powered sewing machine that he turned into a scroll saw. The video below shows how he added a small scratch-built lathe to the treadle base. His first pass at a headstock, using pillow blocks for bearings, didn’t work as well as he wanted, so he built a new headstock around off-the-shelf lathe parts. The aluminum extrusion bed holds the headstock, tailstock, and a custom-built tool rest of heavy brass, all of which look great alongside the rich wood accent pieces and base. And for those times when his feet are tired, he added a surplus electric motor to turn the spindle. We especially like the two settings on the motor speed control: “0” and “>0”. Classic [Uri].

If you haven’t heard of [Uri] before, do yourself a favor and go check out his YouTube channel right now. Or start with our other coverage of his unique projects, from building an intricately detailed hammer to his lobster claw ink-dipping machine and even this unusual take on preserved lemons.

Continue reading “A Double-Hybrid Mini-Lathe, From Scratch”

Build Your Own Solenoid Engine

A solenoid engine is a curiosity of the electrical world. By all measures, using electricity to rotate something can be done almost any other way with greater efficiency and less hassle. But there’s just something riveting about watching a solenoid engine work. If you want to build one of your own and see for yourself, [Emiel] aka [The Practical Engineer] has a great how-to.

For this build though he used a few tools that some of us may not have on hand, such as a lathe and a drill press. The lathe was used to make the plastic spool to hold the wire, and also to help wind the wire onto the spool itself rather than doing it by hand. He also milled the wood mounts and metal bearings as well, and the quality of the work really shows through in the final product. The final touch is the transistor which controls power flow to the engine.

If you don’t have all of the machine tools [Emiel] used it’s not impossible to find substitute parts if you want to build your own. It’s an impressive display piece, or possibly even functional if you want your build to have a certain steampunk aesthetic (without the steam). You can even add more pistons to your build if you need extra power.

Continue reading “Build Your Own Solenoid Engine”

Bend Some Bars With A Flywheel

The ability to look at a pile of trash, and see the for treasure is a skill we hold in high regard around here. [Meanwhile in the Garage] apparently has this skill in spades and built himself a metal bar bending machine using an old flywheel and starter pinion gear.

To bend metal using muscle power alone requires some sort of mechanical advantage. Usually this involves a bending tool with a long lever, but [Meanwhile in the Garage] decided to make use of the large gear ratio between a car’s starter motor and the flywheel it drives. This does away with the need for a long lever and allows bending to almost 270° with a larger radius. Lathe and milling work features quite prominently, including to make the bend formers, drive shaft and bushings and to modify the flywheel to include a clamp. The belt sander that is used to finish a number of the parts is also his creation. While the machine tools definitely helped, a large amount of creativity and thinking outside the box made this project possible and worth the watch.

We’ve featured a number of scrap-built tools including a milling machine, sheet metal hole punch and a hydraulic bench vice. Keep them coming!